This is one of my favorite recipes, from one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Ina Garten. I respect Ina’s simple, yet delicious cooking and her daring sense of adventure in giving up her Washington, DC career to pursue her foodie passions. This recipe because it is easy, delicious, and presents beautifully. I love a recipe that makes it easy to impress! My dear husbandy likes this recipe because I make this with almost no sugar. I favor this recipe because the crust is flaky and thinner than a traditional pie crust so it doesn’t weigh down the dessert and lets the apples take center stage. Traditional dessert lovers can still get their sweet fix, especially if you top this one with a little vanilla ice cream.
As usual, I’ve made a few slight modifications to the original recipe. Rather than the traditional Granny Smith apple for tartness, I often choose a sweeter apple, like a Fuji or Gala which are higher in natural sugars and will allow me to forego adding any additional sugar in the apples. I let the apples macerate just for a few minutes, but Ina omits this. To make this a little healthier, I often omit dotting the apples with butter before sliding this into the oven, but the butter does make this a more decadent dessert. Ina recommends mixing Calvados (apple brandy), rum, or water to mix in with the jam, I usually use a traditional brandy or cognac.
Finally, I should mention that I have an apple peeler, corer, slicer. Don’t have one? Get one (click here)! Really, I’m not being paid by advertisers. These little guys are not expensive and will save you at least 15 minutes (probably more) in peeling, coring and slicing apples. Trust me, one apple pie make this worth it. Have a bushel of apples you are thinking of turning into an apple sauce? With this nifty device it makes it EASY PEASY!
GO-TO APPLE TART (adapted from Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart)
For the pastry dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water
For the apple topping:
4 medium-sized apples, preferably gala or fuji, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces. (if your apples are tart, you may need to add ¼ cup – ½ cup of sugar to the apples)
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced (optional)
1/2-3/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac (optional, but really, it’s better if you use it!)
Cut the 12 tablespoons of butter into cubes, place into a small dish and place in freezer for 10 minutes. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade, add the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Add the butter cubes and pulse in 1-2 second bursts about 12-15 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. You can also cut the dough by hand with a pastry cutter.
Next, with the food processor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and mix just until the dough starts to come together. This happens almost immediately!
Form a ball with the dough, use cold hands and try to minimize your contact with the dough. If you are doing this by hand combine the water with a wooden spoon and bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, peel, core and slice the apples. You can do this by hand, but really, just invest in an apple peeler, corer, slicer. Place the apple slices in a large bowl and add the orange juice, cinnamon and nutmeg (add additional sugar now, if using). Coat the apples with the spices and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll the dough into a rectangle slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. I like to take the trimmed edges and twist them lightly, then place them on the along the edges to create a crust. Place the dough on the sheet pan. Starting in a corner, place the apples slices diagonally in rows, overlapping the apples to cover the crust. If using, dot with butter. If you aren’t using butter, heat up ¼ cup of the apricot jam (I do this in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds) and brush the tops of the apples with the warm jam.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during the baking. The apple juices might burn in the pan but don’t sweat it. Remove from the oven with the tart is lightly browned. Warm the remaining apricot jam and stir in the brandy or cognac. Brush the tart with the remaining jam and brandy mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.